Speaking in public is confronting for most people. It can bring up all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and physical symptoms, which of course you’d rather avoid.
But if what you want to achieve is outside your comfort zone, then inevitably there will be discomfort – or outright fear – in getting there:
“Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfort zone.” – Seth Godin
And if you’re someone who’s struggled through times in your life where you were really uncomfortable or afraid, it can seem like the easier and less exhausting option to coast for a while and not stretch too far. And when that happens it can be ok; necessary and nurturing for a while. But it’s worth noticing whether by staying neatly within your comfort zone, you’re missing out on living something enriching or truly helpful; if so, then it’s time to act by upping your levels of discomfort toleration.
When you get used to increased levels of discomfort, it loses its power over you – you’re set free. And then you can change just about anything you want to, whether it’s public speaking, exercising or starting your own business. And I know all about this, because the discomfort avoider used to be me: I was a chronic procrastinator, unhealthy, and unwilling to try anything new that scared me. And when I say “anything new” we’re talking small events here, not abseiling down a cliff-face (yes, I am afraid of heights!). It finally dawned on me as the years went by that I was holding myself back from good things and would look back one day and regret it. And so after much work on myself, I now believe there are 2 ways to set yourself free: the bold leap, and the gentle, incremental shifts.
1. The bold leap. My leaps over the years have included backpacking around the world on my own for 6 months, moving to Australia from the U.K. on my own, and letting go of regular income to start my own business – and going through extreme discomfort and self-consciousness to become a public speaker. Yours might be to feel the fear and just do it anyway: start building your discomfort muscles in your daily life, or go straight to claiming something you want around public speaking. Decide that you’ll take up on every invitation to speak to groups from now on, no excuses, while accepting the fact that you won’t be great, or even good, to start with.
Or get some outside help: join a public speaking course, get some coaching, just do something. Taking action despite discomfort is one of the bravest things we can do, and the rewards will come. They may not come immediately, but the increase in self-worth alone makes taking action the best thing to do.
2. The gentle shifts. What are these? Mine include holding a yoga pose longer than is comfortable; picking up the phone to speak to someone new about my business; or experimenting with a new way of delivering my material. Yours: you will know. What will stretch you, gradually but surely, to expand your comfort zone?
It can be small shifts, or a leap beyond the zone: choose which method will work for you right now, and start today!